Welcome to 2022! It’s another time to make resolutions. Some people don’t care for them but I do. It’s a great time to reflect and to attempt to make amends for bad decisions in the past year. Yes, it is true that by February a lot of people forget about their resolutions. However, this is not the case for everyone. Some actually follow through and end up reaping the benefits of what they set out to do. That person can be you. One of the most common resolutions that people make at this time in the US is to lose weight. This is not surprising since Americans are bursting at the waist. According to the CDC, we have an obesity prevalence of 42.4%. That means you can hardly walk down the street for 10 minutes before running into someone who is obese. It’s really a serious cause for concern. With obesity comes related problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers. On average, the CDC reports, it costs $1,429 more to take care of obese individuals than those with a healthy weight. How can you achieve and maintain a healthy weight this year? It’s not that complicated. The solution is simple. It ‘s the discipline that is hard. In this article I am going to show you how you can do it by giving you the best weight loss strategies out there. Follow these strategies and you will be on your way to looking and feeling like you’ve always dreamed.

Start With a Goal

If you want to achieve anything, you have to start with a goal. A few years ago, I found a list of stuff I was working towards. I had filed it somewhere and forgot it existed. As I ran through the list, I was surprised to discover how many I was able to check off. Simply starting with a goal will give you direction, and something to aim for. For weight management goal-setting, think small. Don’t be the one who tells herself that I am going to lose 20 pounds by February. That is extremely hard or impossible to do if you are going to do it the healthy way. Weight management is more about a lifestyle change than a quick fix. So how much should you aim for? Well, the CDC recommends weight loss of 1-2 lbs. a week max. Can you imagine what you will look like if you stick with a lifestyle plan that makes you lose that much every week?

The National Institute of Health has a helpful bodyweight planner that you can use as you set your weight goal. Let’s say you are a moderately active 40 year old female who is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds. That puts you at a BMI of approximately 27 which is in the overweight category. You decide you would like to get to a healthy weight of 150 pounds in 6 months which would give you an acceptable BMI of 22.7. Use the free tool to find out the amount of calories you would need to eat daily to get to this goal.

  1. Enter Starting Information

2. Add Goal Weight

3. Add Physical Activity (Optional, But I Recommend This)

4. Get results on calories needed per day to reach your goal

Commit to Journaling Your Progress

Okay. Now that you have a goal, I want you to write it in your journal. You are going to keep this journal right through your journey. Don’t just get any old book. Buy a special one. Psychologically it will remind you that this is a serious, or even sacred commitment. Make it your friend. I like using the ones that are blank inside so that I can put whatever I want in it, in whatever order I choose. In your journal you can:

  • Lay out your weekly and monthly big goals and objectives
  • Write down your meal plans for each day
  • Write down your exercise plans for the day
  • Share your successes, and
  • Reflect on your defeats and what you can do to improve next time

If you have ever started a journal, you know that this takes commitment. If you are not careful, days may pass without you making a single entry. Try avoiding this by bringing it with you to school, work, on the road, or otherwise just making sure that it’s accessible.

Share Your Plan With These People

One of the factors that will determine your success is the people in your life. If you are living with someone whose goals for weight management is heading in the opposite direction, you are going to have a hell of a time making it. They will keep putting the same horrible foods in your refrigerator that’s making you fat. You will be less inclined to jump on the treadmill when you see them sitting on your couch watching your favorite TV show. If you can figure out a way to get them to buy-in to your new healthy lifestyle, things will be a lot easier. See what you can do in that department, although you should not hold your breath. Sometimes you will have to lead the way and make them jealous of the results they see in you. They may hop on to the plan then. If they are not ready, step out and do your thing anyway.

Along with people who you live with, you may also need to reach out to certain other individuals in your life to let them know about your new direction. Consider telling those who you know are likely to invite you to the pub next weekend, or to upcoming parties or holiday events where you know you will be tempted to overindulge in excess food or drinks. They may not be happy about it but a least they will appreciate your honesty and upfrontness.

Make a Pact With a Friend Who Have a Similar Goal

A really good way to stick to your goal is weaving in some sort of accountability. Try to find a friend who has a similar goal. Make a pact to be accountable to each other for your success. Together you can share:

  • Ideas for health meals
  • Fun workouts that you can do together
  • Your progress
  • Your successes, challenges and disappointments

Make a plan to reward each other for specific goals that you both achieve for the month. Please don’t make this a food reward. A gift card for a facial or manicure is better than one for the icecream shop. Be creative.

Plan Your Counter-Attack

Hey, let’s be honest. You are going to face an uphill battle. Getting from plump to slim is not easy. Why? You are going against the grain. Your mind, your body, other people, and your environment is trying to get you to pack on the pounds when you are trying to lay it aside. Countless distractions will be in your way. It’s a war and you better know how to make your counter attack. You must have a “what to do when” strategy in your journal. For example, what am I going to do when:

  • I get home late and tired with no time to fix a proper meal or exercise
  • My husband did grocery shopping and brought home all the things I told him not to (my favorite pizza, ice-cream, and pudding)
  • I had to skip lunch today leaving me extra hungry and feeling the urge to binge-eat tonight
  • My boyfriend invites me out to my favorite all-you-can eat restaurant
  • I am showered with my favorite chocolate on Valentines day

These are but a few practical scenarios. Knowing what you will do in these and similar situations ahead of time is crucial.

Write a Menu Plan

How many times have you gone to the supermarket to shop, come home with the back of your car filled with food and then scratched your head on what you will have for dinner? The problem is that you are shopping blindly. You are just getting the stuff you usually buy without connecting each ingredient to a purpose. Just as how every dollar in your wallet should have a purpose, every item on your grocery list must be purposed with a meal. So, before you head out to buy, plan your menu. Have a menu plan for a whole month. Could you do that? Daunting. I know. At least, have a plan for one week ahead, and shop accordingly. After a while this will become a lot easier to do as the meals will be repeated each month with a few new recipes included to keep things interesting.

Stock Up on Healthy Foods

I cannot stress more, that if you are going to control your weight, you have to control your environment. You will always end up eating whatever food you have around. Therefore it makes sense to stock up on healthy foods. These may be a combination of both processed and unprocessed foods. Yes, I said processed. Don’t let anyone tell you that all processed foods are bad. That is not true. There are many healthy options to choose from. Just follow this general guideline. Shop for foods that are:

  • Low in cholesterol
  • Low in or have zero trans fats
  • High in unsaturated fatty acids
  • Low in salt
  • Low in or have no added sugars
  • Rich in fiber
  • Nutrient dense (more nutrients such as vitamins and minerals per calorie)

Learn to Convert Healthy Foods into Tasty Meals

One of the challenges that we have in being able to eat well all the time, is that we don’t know how to cook. Healthy foods such as vegetables and meat substitutes are often bland, tasteless, or simply off-putting. How do we make them taste good? I have had vegan meals that was so sumptuous I never missed the meat. I have also had vegan meals that was hard to swallow. The taste was so awful that I ended up eating very little and getting up from the table hungry. Obviously, turning certain foods into a delicious feast is a work of art. Buy a good cookbook or sign up for a cooking class. Otherwise, you will need to commit to experimenting with various recipes. It’s never too late to learn how to cook!

Don’t Be Confused With Serving Size

An important piece of information that you will see on food labels is the serving size. Many people think that this is a recommendation of how much we should eat. It’s not. It just tells you how much people in a given population normally eat. I am looking at a chocolate chip cookie package right now with a serving size of 2 cookies (31 grams). Are you kidding me! Who’s going to eat just two cookies from the pack?! These two cookies by the way, according to the label has 150 calories. To be realistic I would normally eat 6 cookies (at least) in one sitting. That’s three times the calories on the package that I would have eaten. The calories can really add up if you are not careful. Practice to count your calories!

Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables First

One of the ways to keep you calories down is to eat the fruits and vegetables on your plate first. Fruits and veggies are packed with nutrients and are low in calories. So, unlike eating a cookie, you will be getting a lot more bang for your buck. Remember that when it comes to fruits and veggies, variety counts. Eat the rainbow as they say. You will get a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. The fiber that they contain will help to increase satiety, in other words, make you feel full faster, and hence prevent you from overeating.

Use a Smaller Plate

We generally share our meals based on the size of our plates. If it can hold more, we are more likely to add more. This is especially true if we are sharing foods that we like. It seems simple but this has been verified by peer-reviewed research. The Journal of the Association for Consumer Research published a metanalysis of 20 papers on the subject in 2016. The study found that reducing the diameter of plates by 30% halves the area of the plate and reduces consumption by 30%.

Don’t Skip Your Meals

Skipping a meal for weight loss may seem logical but here’s the thing. Skipping a meal may leave you feeling hungry, causing you to nibble. This will end up being counter-productive to your goals. But, let’s say you are disciplined enough to not nibble. The other problem is that while your calorie count may go down, your quality of eating may suffer. In other words, you may not get enough of the nutrients you need. The USDA-ERS found this to be the case. They found that skipping breakfast or lunch has a much bigger impact on food quality compared to skipping dinner. By eating all of your meals you are likely to not only satisfy all your calorie requirements but you are likely to get adequate amounts of all food groups.

Don’t Wait Till You are Hungry to Get in the Kitchen

Do you find yourself working long hours, setting aside no time to fix a proper meal? After you have reached a point of exhaustion and hunger, you reach into the refrigerator or cupboard and you grab anything (healthy or not) that is ready-to-eat. Try something different this year. The next time you are in the kitchen, prepare enough to store an extra meal away in the refrigerator or freezer. So, if you do have to grab and go, at least you will have healthier options to pick from.

Watch Out for Liquid Calories

I mentioned the issue of nibbling earlier. But there is another way that calories sneak in. That is, through drinking. Anything that you drink for food that is not pure water is likely to have calories. Drinking alcohol or other beverages with your meals or between meals can make you pack on the pounds before you know it. It is generally a good practice to avoid drinking while you are eating. This will allow your food to digest faster. Drinking between meals is better, but just make sure that you are counting those calories. There is no substitute for good old H-2-O. If you are thirsty, grab a glass of it instead of having anything with sugar or alcohol.

Exercise Daily

You know I had to go there right? Yep. Exercise is essential in maintaining overall health and is especially helpful if you are trying to lose weight. Yes, you can lose weight by just cutting calories and maintaining your current activity, but it will take longer. I am sure you don’t want to take forever. Do you? You might already know of the fat-burning and metabolism-boosting merits of aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, cycling, dancing, hiking, and climbing steps.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans developed by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends:

  • 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise
  • Adding two days of strength training exercise per week

You may already know this. The problem with exercise is that it takes so much disciple and willpower. How can we make a plan and stick to it? It starts with thinking about exercise as an important part of your daily activities just as your work in the office, or picking up the kids from school. If you think of exercise as something you do if you have the time, it will never get done consistently. Put it on your hit-list of things you must attack each day. Choose the best time that works for you and guard the time jealously.

Conclusion

Psychology and planning ahead is a huge part of winning in the battle of weight loss. It’s hard but you know what? This is your year. You can get the best body possible. Just follow my recommendations and you will be on your way to success. You will feel more confident about yourself, and will have the energy to achieve so much more. HAPPY NEW YEAR! Please write me or comment and tell me how it’s going. Also, don’t forget to get one of my food patterned journals to help you start on your journey.

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Courtney Simons
Courtney Simons
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Courtney Simons is a food science professor. He holds a BS degree in food science and a Ph.D. in cereal science from North Dakota State University.